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Forgotten Spaces: Winner – Reservoir Roofs by Gort Scott

[WALTHAM FOREST] Development of existing reservoirs to allow school children and day trippers to connect with the middle Lee Valley

The reservoirs of the Lee Valley, on the Forest Road between Tottenham Hale and Blackhorse Lane, are man-made additions to the natural Lee River valley that were built in 1880s to store clean water for the growing London metropolis. They are wide open expanses of water, and still part of London’s water infrastructure, but they are little known and remain quiet, unspoilt havens with little activity except for the birdlife that have made them their home.

Only a few fishermen, walkers and bird watchers visit the reservoirs, for which you need a permit from Thames Water and a certain local knowledge as the entry gate is not easily found. Nor is the entrance along Forest Road signposted from either Tottenham Hale or Blackhorse Lane, which adds to the area’s sense of being lost somewhere between Canary Wharf in the south and the M25 in the north.

The proposal aims to be in-keeping with the sense of stepping off a busy road into a wild, untouched park.

The reservoirs could be enjoyed by the many people living nearby, not only for their peace and tranquility, and their bird and plant life, but also for their striking views including vistas toCanary Wharf to the South.

However, Gort Scott do not see this as a development spot for a boat club or waterside pub. Instead they envision a series of a series of small interventions that allow better use of the natural terrain as well as respecting the working infrastructure of the reservoir and what theycall the reservoir’s ‘quiet monumentality’.

The proposal aims to be in-keeping with the sense of stepping off a busy road into a wild, untouched park. Light-touch changes include a small gate-within-a-gate and covered bike parking linking into an improved east-west cycle route.

Inside the park Gorst Scott propose two large pitched clay-tiled roofs inspired by the Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris, who was a local man. Their roofs incorporate gold tiling and painted interior battens which provide protection for visitors, be they a class of school children or a single individual. The first structure looks south with views of Canary Wharf, while the second extends over the reservoir, looking north over the expanse of water.

These minimal changes will, say Gort Scott, make the forgotten spaces of the reservoirs much more accessible to a much wider range of users.

Forgotten Spaces: All 20 shortlisted entries feature in a public exhibition at the National Theatre until 4 July

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